Meet the Women of Pretty. Strong., Oxygen's New Show About the Legends Football League
Oxygen's newest docuseries, Pretty. Strong., follows the women of the Chicago Bliss on their journey to become third-time reigning champions of the Legends Football League. The series profiles eight women as they balance their home and work life with their passion for football.
At a recent New York Jets game, Glamour had the opportunity to sit down and talk to wide receiver Alli Alberts, offensive lineman Deena Fagiano, running back ChrisDell Harris, and defensive lineman Yashi Rice about what it's like to tackle gender barriers one touchdown at a time. Get to know them:
When did you start playing football?
Deena: I started playing football four years ago after I saw our quarterback, Heather, in a picture on the field. She was such an inspiring, strong, and beautiful athlete, and I wanted to be like her. We all have role models as women, and she was someone I wanted to be like and look like, so I tried out for the team.
Yashi: I’ve been playing since 2010. I started playing because I was singing professionally for a very long time, and I took a little break. Football was my outlet away from that.
ChrisDell: I’ve been playing in the LFL for four years—five if you count all star. I started playing because an old teammate of mine from my community college down in Kansas played and thought it would be a great idea for me to try out. I tried out, and I was like "Oh my God, Mom, I want to play football for the LFL!" My mom told me to jump headfirst into it, and I did and have been a part of it ever since and absolutely love it.
Alli: I started playing with the Bliss three years ago. I played three years of flag football with guys before that, and also played football growing up in the school yard. After seeing the Chicago Bliss on TV, I knew I had to start playing because they looked so awesome. I did volleyball and track in college, and I needed another competitive outlet.
What’s the fitness regimen you use to stay in shape?
Deena: I love to sweat, so I want to go as hard as I can for as little time as possible. So running, sprinting, burpees, core, etc. I honestly think the most important thing to make you better if to push past the pain. When you hurt you’re getting better.
Yashi: I don’t like to spend that much time at the gym, so I love circuit training and HIIT workouts. I also switch up my workouts often so everyday it’s something new.
ChrisDell: From a personal trainer’s perspective, you have to be in there every other day doing cardio or lifting, but for the most part you just have to set attainable goals and conquer them. Put your head down and keep pushing, even if you have to get up at 3:30 in the morning like me some days—but those are the days it’ll benefit you the most.
Alli: Football shape is a little different from any other shape. It’s all just immediate sprints, and you have to be ready to go all out on every single play. So HIIT is all that I do all day long because that’s what’s going to help. It really transformed my body into what I wanted it to look like. I did a lot of cardio before, and I didn’t like the way my body looked, but now I love it.
How has being on a docuseries affected your team?
Yashi: Being on a docuseries has definitely made us more competitive because now we have that all-seeing eye on us, and nobody wants to look bad on camera. Everybody is fighting for a spot because we know that there are other girls who will come right behind us because they want to be on TV. But the beauty of it for us is that we didn’t join this team because of TV, we’ve all been playing for years before the show.
Deena: I don’t think it’s affected us as much as you’d think it would because we are used to cameras being in the locker room and on the field. We just want to play football, and if the world wants to watch, cool.
ChrisDell: On a personal Chicago Bliss level, some of the girls that we thought would be seriously aggressive on a docuseries disappeared. And some of the girls that weren’t so aggressive shined. In Yashi’s case, she became a diva. Or if it’s someone like me who sang at church, it came easy. It was one of the best experiences I’ve had in my life, even though it was hard at some times. We're so happy Oxygen gave us a chance to share our story and our day-to-day life and the empowerment of women and what it’s like to play such an aggressive sport and still be sexy and beautiful.
Alli: Being on the show forces you to deal with every situation or issue you have with someone, and that’s not a normal everyday life experience. If you don’t, then every little beef with blow up and you have to talk about it. It’s a lot harder to deal with those issues, and I think the other teams understood, but overall it was an eye-opening experience to have to deal with issues and problems in front of everyone that you would have never talked about before. It was very interesting socially.
What message are you trying to get across with your story?
Deena: It’s truly amazing that we all come from such different backgrounds—we have a dentist, a mom, someone who grew up in a really poor neighborhood, and someone with an NFL brother. I have a great family and a full-time job that I have to balance with football. Even though we don’t always get along, we come together on the field and always win.
Yashi: We’re living our wildest dreams right now to be playing football on a platform that nobody before us can say they’ve had. Believe in your wildest dreams because your wildest dreams will absolutely happen.
ChrisDell: To every little tom-boy playing sports that normally guys would play, keep it up! Play as hard as you can, believe in yourself, and your dreams will come true. The ability to play a professional sport is there now, so understand that you’ll be pretty strong just like my teammates and me.
Alli: I want young girls to know they can do whatever they want. When I was a little girl my dad asked me what I wanted to do and that I could do whatever I wanted, so I kind of grew up with that idea. It’s been instilled in me. It doesn’t matter if no girl has ever done it before, you can do it.
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Photo Credit: Matthew Burke/Oxygen Media/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images